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I have recently written a book called Areté Again: Missional Adventures in Theology and Life. Areté means excellence in character and life. It is the move from the community of the Trinity to a life of virtue, to a life well lived. It is the culmination of virtue in one’s life. I wrote this book for three reasons. Part One detail’s my descent into chronic pain and addiction and my ascent to character and virtue—areté again. It was important for me to remember and honor so many people and places that leaned into one another through the joy and tears of life and ministry. My motivation was to encourage honest conversation in community that can lead to freedom, truth, light, grace and a life that flourishes. In order to do this Part Two plunges us into a fresh understanding of the Trinity as a social God in perichoretic movement. John of Damascus first introduced this word into theological discourse in the seventh century and its etymology comes from two words: peri, meaning around, and choresis meaning dance or chorus line. This word literally means a circle dance. Jürgen Moltmann popularized this word for our day through his work The Trinity and the Kingdom of God. In order to move from where I was to where I desired to be, I needed a God that was bigger than my stuff. I needed to rediscover, with a second naïveté, a God that is actually beyond all measure. Similarly, we need to rediscover the infinite Trinity in our midst today as people, pastors, and presbyters. It is an attempt at a way of thinking beyond the polarizations and the political stalemates of right or left ideology—to catapult us into a broad and open third way that gives us the space to become human again. So I share with you an excerpt from my book:
Theology matters. Our God images are important. We all have them. Constructions in our minds of who, how and what God is like. We are all theologians, whether or not we think in those categories. These images form us, shape us, mold us, and even have the power to transform us, diminish us or constrict us. These physical and emotional abstractions drive our character and our character plays themselves out in the way we do life, in the way we do ministry, and in the way we live out our vocatio, our calling. They impinge on the way we raise our children, compete on the field, and spend our money; what websites we click on in our offices late at night; who we lay next to in bed; who we copulate with; and what we ingest into our bodies. It all matters, immensely so, these God or no-God images. These images of the holy or not-so-holy drive and fuel our virtue, and our virtue is what is seen as we live our lives in the politic public.
I suggest that our views of God have very real and practical implications in our everyday lives. They trespass in the way we discipline our children, in the way we care for ourselves, in the way we talk to other people, and in the way we care for creation. All too often, our God images are un-holy Trinities that are really no god at all. These images are made more in our own likeness than in the image. Our God is too small. Too white, too blond-haired and too blue-eyed. Too American, too powerful, too domesticated, too progressive, too conservative, too religious, too wealthy, too nice, too mainstream, too hip, too popular, too anything we desire, too misogynistic paternal, too emasculated feminine, too heterosexual, too homosexual, too much like Santa Claus, too cozy, too congenial, too perfect, too Hallmark sentimental, too friendly, too awful, too much of our own preferences, too modern, too static, too confined, too managed, too geometric, too vengeful, too anything goes, too stoic, too human, too much of a customer service representative for the way we think the world ought to be, too spiritual, too boring, too rule-oriented, too driven by four spiritual laws, too dualistic, too free, too narcissistic, too, too, too, too. I think that you are starting to get the idea.
What about a God who is mysterious and wonderful and ferocious for me, you, us, and the world? What about a God who is social, passionate, communal, missional, one in three and three in one, dancing, delightful, extravagant, on the margins, from the streets? What if?
Part Three explores what it means to edit, rescript and reconstruct our lives in a way that allows us to flourish in areté again. It is an exposé on the vices we so love and the virtues that we are called to live. The classic seven deadly sins are given contemporary names and I offer a trinity of virtues as the antidote for each of these vices. I offer compelling and honest stories from life in ministry, from the traumatic to the hilarious to the inspiring, in such a way that we are guided into areté again. I pull from theologians, philosophers and artists of our past and present to weave a narrative that strikes a balance between social justice and steadfast faith. I offer candid observations and reverently irreverent insights that will make you think differently about the Trinity, about salvation, about life, ministry and about grace.
We are all perfectly imperfect—this is why we need Jesus. It is why I need Jesus in my life. Christus Victor! It is my prayer that we would be honest with ourselves in all manner of theology, life and praxis. It is my prayer that we would be open to conversation, growth and dialogue about the vexations before us in a complex social situation. It is my prayer that we would sit with our internal angst holding loosely our position long enough to listen to people. Perhaps we may grow comfortable being uncomfortable and allow our current reformation to bring light from shadows. The Protestant reformation did not resolve itself over night and neither will we but we can commit to a journey together that moves beyond polarizations and sentimentalities. I am confident that after the shadows there is light. That is Good Friday to Easter Sunday, which is our faith, which is our hope, which is our story, which is our future!! God help us all!
At this point I could offer endorsements from good folks around the country who have read my book, but I will spare you the self-promotion. If you would like more information you can visit my website at tobinwilson.com. My website features a two minute book trailer video clip, a link to a KOMO 4 Television news interview that I did with Mary Nam and other printed and radio interviews. I would love to speak at any venue you might deem appropriate and of course would love for you to pick up a copy of my book. You can find the book on my website, Amazon, or any local bookseller can order a copy for you.
Post Tenebrae Lux !!!
Pastor, Lake Burien Presbyterian Church